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Donate By Year's End To Our Amazing Story of A Third Place projects on the Far Northside miracles among the ruins

...Become now a part of the miracles among the ruins and help launch us into an even more incredible year of growing healthy lives, neighborhoods in the 74126 and adjacent zips, renewing community, empowering residents, all through small acts of justice done with great love and hope....

You have been reading all year of the work going on, of the lives touched in small ways and of the grand plans that have emerged and are on the verge of the great tipping point to turning around our community area serving from 46th to 76th St. North and from the Osage County line to Highway 75. Now you can become a part of that story...

Make your online donation by year's end at; you don't need paypal to use the online service. Or send a check to A 'Third Place Foundation at The Welcome Table Community Center, 5920 N. Owasso Ave., Turley, OK 74126. Or bring it by during our New Year's Eve gathering beginning at 9 pm tomorrow evening.

If you missed it, here is our annual end of the year report to the community. Please find ways to share it with others, and go to the website and read and share of the many other events and issues and projects underway in our area.

Be an underwriter, be a presence in this abandoned place of the Empire:

$100 helps us provide one of our many community meals throughout the month

$300 pays for a whole month's mortgage for us, or a whole month's insurance for us, or helps us staff the food center for a month.

$500 pays for a whole month's utilities for us, keeping us open and as a warming station for those without heat during these cold months, keeping the computer center alive.

$1000 will announce us to the world with new community signs for the center and for the kitchengardenpark and orchard.

Help us keep the mission alive...

The Week Ahead:

Sat. Dec. 31, beginning at 8 am and going all morning, we will be doing major site preparation work at our emerging community garden park kitchen and orchard at 6005 N. Johnstown Ave. This has been one of the amazing stories of this past year, and so come witness as we take another leap forward on the last day of the year turning abandoned property into an oasis for healthy food and community connections.

Sat. Dec. 31, 9 pm. to after midnight. This has been the year we also bought another old historic abandoned building and turned it into our community center, so it is fitting that we end the year relaxing and enjoying this place of renewal, where passions meet the world's great needs, and people find purpose and hope in giving back to others. We will have food, play board games, watch the Best Picture Gandhi to usher in a year of revolutionary peace, and community liberating presence here in our area.

Tuesday, Jan. 3 and Thursday, Jan. 5, from 3 to 6 pm, our Food Pantry Center, where we also provide healthy recipes and healthy meals made out of the food pantry ingredients, where we will be signing people up and handing out tickets for the great food giveaway on Jan. 13 we are coordinating with the Food Bank.

Thursday, Jan. 5, 3:30 pm our Future of the Turley Area deep planning session; we will be unveiling and working on the boundaries for the incorporation of a city of Turley, working on taking our disaster response network to the next level by identifying resources and leaders in sixteen neighborhoods within our currently unincorporated area, hearing reports from partners and networking our organizations.

Thursday, Jan. 5, 5:30 pm, helping the Advisory Board of the O'Brien Park welcome its new activities director with a public reception. This is one of our partners in the community.

Also help plan our parade presence in the Martin Luther King Jr. parade and candlelight vigil and events. And stay tuned in January for the start or something new...

Merry continuing Christmastide, and a happy new year to you and to your communities.


The Christmas Words

from The Welcome Table

a free universalist christian missional community

5920 N. Owasso Ave., Turley, OK 74126

feel free to forward and share with others...

Soon it will be the season of Christmas. Already though its spirit of surprising love, abundance, peace, joy, and hope have been felt here in our area. Thanks for letting us share them with you. Our wish is that these reports bring you as much goodwill as you all have brought to us.

We call this area of North Tulsa and Turley at this time of year especially a "new Nazareth." Scriptures report that people believed that the village of Nazareth had such a bad reputation that "nothing good could come from it." At the time 2000 years ago, Nazareth was little known and little regarded. Just a few miles away stood the bigger, shining new city of Sepphoris, a kind of suburban sprawl built by and for the economy of the Roman Empire, taking up land that had sustained the poor, displacing people. Nazareth was even moreso then a place for the left out, the left behind, the decidedly uncool people. And yet, today, so few have ever heard of Sepphoris, while Nazareth, well Nazareth is known the world over for the good that came from it, and that keeps coming.

The New Nazareth: All you have to do, anytime there is a story about any sort of crime, and in fact a story even about any sort of new development or plans or groundbreaking, here on the northside of Tulsa, is to go to the Tulsa World online and read the comments left by people to the story. The refrain is the same; people get what they deserve because they are there, meaning here, and if they were smart they would leave, and no one would ever or should ever move there, and nothing good will last because our neighbors won't let it, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the lack of resources and the history of segregation and neglect and decisions made by people who leave elsewhere breaking apart the social communities, it is all about people making bad choices they and their children even should be punished for. We hear this all the time from people who have grown up and spent many adult years in the Tulsa area without ever coming to this area, and how afraid they are when they do, and how others warn them not to. It is not that we don't have struggles and problems of crime, and bad choices so often driven by so many addictions, and lord knows it is so much easier to get people to respond based on fear of something or someone than to get them to respond out of a desire and belief that they can make this part of the world, and their lives, better.

And yet, just a few days ago, we held a party here, threw open our doors for anyone to come, had no security guards, and had no idea how many would come celebrate Christmas with our small group; the past few years in our old community center space just a half mile north of us now, we had had a good time with about 20-30 people from the area, most of whom we knew. But this year, in our new and still emerging community center space, without still being able to afford much attractive signage on the outside to let people know what this big building is being used for, our Christmas Party had some 125 people, a majority of whom hadn't been here before, or only for our Halloween Party when we had 300 people show up, and no security guards then either, and no violence then either. We fed people with Christmas tamales and pizza from businesses right here, and from what we and another church provided; we brought and got gifts to hand out and in a fishes and loaves moment kept finding gifts to give out to all the children who came; and we sang as a community christmas songs and hymns, these voices of people who hadn't sung together before, and might not have another opportunity to sing with others this season.

And yet, here in the new Nazareth, at that party, a little girl said, to no one in particular, as she was moved by the spirit of the moment of community, "This is the best night of my life." Think about that. It was both a moment of great wonder; like an angel proclaiming in a night full of danger and oppression and isolation "Be Not Afraid for I bring you great tidings..." And it was heart breaking too. She had not had this experience before, so many people gathering in peace, joy, hope, and love. She probably, if she is like so many we live with here, a few in her family and perhaps estranged from other family, so no extended family expereinces, no church expereince, no means to go outside the area much if at all; the lights of Christmas, the excess and abundance of Christmas, the story of Christmas itself, mostly comes to her through the screen of a television, which both connects her to a greater world and accentuates her own isolation and disconnect from it. Her family has had to choose between keeping utilities on and having food and having gifts; we make it just a bit more bearable by helping with the food and gifts so they can spend on the utilities, though skimping on all of it.

And yet, here we were all for her, celebrating, blessing our meal and running out of it and getting more of it and all saying Amen, and people making connections for the first time, and hearing about all we have been doing and will be doing, people impromptu volunteering to help us at the food pantry this past week even as they come to get their own food in what has been our busiest ever week; we have run out of turkeys from the food bank and have had to purchase more on our own to meet the need; and this week in another amazing event the children in our neighborhood school, Horace Greeley Elementary School, who are all on free lunch programs themselves, they and their families filled up 15 boxes of food in the month of Nov. and Dec. and on the last day of school contributed it to our food pantry, which many of them use. And yet that night, and this month has all been very ordinary; it has taken so little effort, really, on our part; so few people have created it; no one has been stressed out or worried about its outcome; no one has tried to control it and shut it down out of fear of what might happen, or what might not happen, not have enough, or get this or that wrong.

And yet, though most of our commercial and public district is dark at night even in this season, we have lighted up our building, and we have even lighted up the historic memorial arch and evergreen tree in the courtyard of Cherokee School that has been closed since we finished our summer daily free lunch there. These few lights are what that little girl sees though with her own eyes, not through a screen, and I believe they mean more than all the bright lights on the other side of town, because they are here where she lives.

And yet, I like to think of what has been experienced here in the past few weeks (including the worship and discussions and movies and common meals we have on a regular basis in the missional community gatherings and with our Advent Vespers too) all as a truly living nativity scene. Not one that has people dressing up to look like the manger scene, as wonderful as those are; Not a pageant either; but a truly living embodied nativity scene, for at our Christmas Party, at our overflowing food pantry experiences, at the Greeley school food drive for us, Christ was born again.

That is what Christmas is about, especially here; it is about creating "And yet" moments, an "And yet" world. The world was ruled in terror; the rich kept getting richer and the poor kept growing in number and kept getting poorer with fewer places to turn to for help; the land was being used up; the religious authorities were becoming servants of the Empire; technology was improving and the spirits of people were declining; the prophets were getting their heads cut off and more were jailed, more silenced, more made refugees. And yet, a baby was the same time, then as now, that babies thousand times over in numbers die, are killed, and yet a baby was born...and in that fragile, vulnerable particular event, is all of divinity and eternity, the spark of possibility that not only is another world possible, but in that birth another world has been started, all in order to remind us that it is such abandoned, fragile, vulnerable, and very ordinary particular people and places and events that we are to go in search of the Sacred.

"This is the best night of my life." I hope, truly, that our Christmas Party, our place, ourselves, all become a fading memory for that little girl here. I hope another world embraces her and she has so many other better best nights of her life that this one will be lost to her. I hope that other world happens right here too, and that she is nurtured here and able to grow and give back to others all right here, instead of having to flee to Sepphoris. Mostly, I hope we are able to continue creating such nativity events for others like her in many more ways, places, and times around our community here. For all that, go to and read all we have done and are doing through our community foundation work; this letter has been about the spiritual center that is the hub for all the spokes of the other work, though you can at the link above easily make a donation and be a part of our community here where such a little amount makes such a big difference.

Finally, here is some of the news of the ways we gather:

Saturday, Dec. 24, 5 pm join us at the Turley United Methodist Church for a Christmas Eve candlelight service, at 6050 N. Johnstown Ave. across from our Welcome Table KitchenGardenPark and Orchard.

Sunday, Dec. 25, 9:30 am join us for Christmas Morning Worship of our own Lessons and Carols and Communion Service and Meal here at 5920 N. Owasso Ave. We will take a break from our Justice for the Poor video series and resume it on Jan. 1.

Thursday, Dec. 29, 6:30 pm the neighborhood safety meeting his held here.

Saturday Dec. 31 beginning at 9 pm we will have a New Years Eve Watch Party here, games, watching the movie Ghandi to bring in a new year of peace and resistance to Empire, with refreshments, black eyed peas and more.

Sunday, Jan. 1 New Years Day worship, 9:30 am to 1 pm our usual gathering for video series from Sojourners, communion and meal and service.

Thursday, Jan. 5, our Future of Turley planning group here at 3:30 pm, and at 5:30 pm at O'Brien Park, 6147 N. Birmingham Ave., we will join the Advisory Board to welcome at a reception our new activities director there.

More to come in the New Years Letter....till then, live justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God, and pay attention to the many ways Christ is being born in, among, and beyond you, remembering that Christmastide begins, not ends, Dec. 25 so keep it in your heart, share it and celebrate it throughout the 12 days; to help in that go visit and go to the Christmas links there on the home page, and keep checking back for the gifts of Christmas there; and pause to reflect on how Christmas is not your birthday (even those of you born on Dec. 25 lol) but is the birthday of the one whose wish list is to bring good news to the poor.

blessings, and thanks again,

Ron Robinson

This Incredible Year in Turley

Hi and thanks to all for your interest and presence with us this past year. We just finished hosting another wonderful group from Leadership Tulsa today on a tour of the northside, so much to say and talk about in so short a time, and so I come away wishing that everyone could walk with us through the year, the ups and downs, the detours and deadends and surprising openings that mark our journey each year. This letter might fall in the category of Things I Kept Thinking About....I hope you will also read it and consider ways to give to us at the end of the year after you hear about what a year it has been in so many different ways.

 2011 has been a phenomenal year when things kept getting worse, and things kept getting better, side by side. It has been a year in this regard unlike any before in our own history here, and perhaps in our community's.

 We began the year by purchasing the abandoned church building that had been a central fixture for years in this community but had been foreclosed and empty for years, a symbol of so many vacant and abandoned and rundown structures here. We were able to buy it thanks to equity we had from a few months before, with your help, buying the city block of abandoned homes where we have put in our still emerging and blossoming KitchenGardenPark and Orchard on North Johnstown Ave. Along with a grant from the Zarrow Foundation, we were able to buy this old building and start reusing it even before renovating it. Thanks to a grant from the Flint Family Foundation we have been able to settle in to the building better and keep up our outreach and services and grow them.

Right away though we had the great winter blizzard that shut down the community for weeks and kept us from moving in for about a week, and which opened up more problems with the roof to go along with the major vandalism attack that had hit the building for the first time in its long 90 year history. But as soon as we were able to move in, we held a Community Art Event where area residents were able to help us clean and paint art and brighten up the building on the outside. During this same time though we lost our community health clinic from OU which had closed their others in north Tulsa the previous year. It would herald a year of increased abandonment in this area where so much community wise had closed.

We held community organizing events with OU on several issues facing our community, and worked more on the community health worker proposal that would help take primary care out of the clinic and into the neighborhoods themselves in revolutionary new ways of growing health that lasts. We are looking forward to more service learning projects with OU Social Work as 2012 begins and will be reporting on it.

In the Spring we got word that our post office, which we had had for as long as there had been a community here more than 100 years, was scheduled to be closed. After organizing petitiions, after working to actually get the story out in the public, the post office was still closed. We are hoping to find some place in the community now, though, that would like to work with us to host a possible Village Post Office to replace what we lost. This area where people have the least resources to be able to get to other alternatives to the post office is the place where they close; it is a symbol of the way values of the powerful reinforce convenience for the privileged over comfort for the afflicted.

At the same time we also got the report that the former Turley School, now Cherokee School, was scheduled to be closed; we worked on getting information out to residents, and coming up with alternatives, but the school was closed, and the communities suffer from not having a major place like school where community and residents can intersect. And we are likely to see more schools closing, possibly with charter schools placed as possible alternatives in Greeley but not Cherokee, which is better than having it closed too like Cherokee was, but we still have the major building in the heart of the community at Cherokee being vacant. We are working with OU and others to try to dream up possible new community friendly uses. Our children go to an increasingly different number of schools so far away from our community these days that this continues to be a difficulty in making the connections for community here where there are so few avenues available to do that.

Speaking of Cherokee, we have lighted up the archway and Christmas tree at Cherokee School even though it is closed so it will not be darkened this holiday season. And we have lighted up the community center building so our area will have a few public and commercial buildings with decorations showing spirit and a source of light in this time of darkness, when almost no other buildings for miles along North Peoria have any decorations for the public and our community again this year; part of the problem that comes when people who own the businesses or run the places don't live here. I know that most people in Tulsa will never see these few little holiday decorations and night lights, but I believe, in the spirit of Charlie Brown's Christmas Tree, that they signify more meaning about the reason of the season than all the glitz in other areas of the city and suburbs. We are going to do the same at the Welcome To Turley signs as we head toward the beginning of Christmas. It is part of our mission to make the community look better even before we spend on ourselves. And we are working with the Cherokee School reunion committee; and we are part of a major community food policy grant proposal that if it is received we might be able to lobby for some of its use in our area.

During the summer even after the school closing, and all the grief it caused, we managed to get the school to stay open throughout the summer so we could hold the Summer Cafe daily free lunch program for all under eighteen years old, and we stayed open longer than any other site and served more because of it. Our summer was hit hard by two natural events though, the long record setting drought and heat wave and the wildfires. We were able though because we had bought the center building to be able to open it up as the first response shelter for all the evacuues; just as we had used it as a tornado shelter in the Spring storms. Out of that experience came our renewed Turley leadership planning group that is concentrating on disaster response and deep issues. One of our residents was killed at night because of the lack of street lights and that we have no sidewalks along our major street, also a state highway, that people have to use to get to and from walking to the store or other businesses; including those in wheelchairs who have to use the highway lanes. This group is planning ways to build up the infrastructure needs of our area and are working again on plans to incorporate our own citizens and a city of Turley, or at least to find out if people will go for it. Our summer was also marked by a week of service where we hosted a church group from Wildflower Church in Austin, Texas who helped us during all this keep up our spirits and make plateau changers in some of our community sites. And at the end of the summer we were partners with OU on community health research that we hope will help us to grow more connections and the health worker plan; we are now helping with research on healthy food with the Indian Health Care Resource Center.

Even in the heat wave, we were able to win our community orchard and organize a major volunteer effort to plant forty fruit trees during the hottest day of the year. Seeing the growth of the garden and orchard has been a major accomplishment of the year; our fall harvest helped feed our neighbors and bring them together and we have so much more to do as we move forward expanding and turning it into an outdoors third place. We also helped spur on the county's commitment to removing many of our abandoned and rundown houses; this is an ongoing concern and project and we still have so many dangerous commercial and residential buildings that are left to waste. This year we also got the Federal Home Loan Bank grant that has helped us to turn the old abandoned homes into our GardenPark; it is a great example of putting all three legs of the stool into collaboration to make a huge difference in an underserved area; we used government through OU students who helped us prepare and envision it; private business through Freedom Bank and the home loan grant program; and ourselves as a nonprofit and help from grant writers at the government US Dept of Agriculture Tallgrass Resource and Conservation District to all work together to bring it about.

This Fall we have been picking up the pieces from the losses, helping Greeley School transform for the new students and staff and faculty, helping to renew the advisory board at O'Brien Park, and helping out with the continued growth of the McLain Foundation and the big event of the Taste of North Tulsa promoting healthy food and lives; and yet, in the midst of it have had to suffer our own personal losses due to the unexpected deaths of two of our own board members, Gwen Goff and Linda Taylor, and our major partner in food justice Steve Eberle. These emotional losses tempt us to turn toward our own selves and needs though we know to honor their legacies we need to continue their work making the world right outside our doors a better, safer place. Our new board members, Deb Carroll who has taken on the renewal of our food pantry justice and sustainability center, and Elaine McDondle of Sarah's Residential Living Center by McLain High School, and Demalda Newsome of the North Tulsa Farmers Market, all are giving us renewed hope and spirit as we begin to enter a new year. There is still a good buzz of wonder and hope from our sponsored community Halloween Festival that drew 300 people; and from our smaller but significant Thanksgiving turkey dinner giveaways and our Thanksgiving community meal.

By the way we just received today our 125 vouchers to distribute to 125 families in our area to be able to take big boxes of food at our Major Food Giveaway on Friday, Jan. 13 from the Mobile Food Van of the Community Food Bank. And we don't just give out food; but we teach about healthy food, give out recipes, connect people with community gardens, and with all of our community events throughout the week, and recovery groups on the weekend.

We end up the year with our Christmas Community Party on Tuesday Dec. 20 from 6 to 8 pm. Come sing with us, have refreshments with us, play games with us, get face painted, watch Christmas videos, and get to know each other better as we dream and make those dreams real in ways that continue to amaze all of us.

I wish I had been able to tell all this to the Leadership Tulsa guests today. I would have told them better what a remarkable gift it is to be able to live here with those who are struggling but still find ways to give of their strengths and spirit, of the new dreams many have, how just staying here and alive and dreaming is a sign that another world is possible; last night several of us in the community watched the movie Joyeux Noel about how peace broke out and friendships were made and worlds changed on the battlefields of France during World War One on Christmas Eve; they paid a price for creating, for a moment, that different world, but it was one that changed their lives forever, and can still today for us. I should have mentioned more to the group about the growing possibilities and community involvement with the Vann Green Park Industrial Area here, along with our unique setting of hill and bottomland so close to downtown. And I should have said more about how issues of racial justice, reconciliation, ethnic diversity, both still challenge us, and are a blessing to us here as we find ways to deepen our lives together across barriers; living next to one another, serving together with one another, linking and empowering the poor regardless of ethnicity, is all an opportunity we get to have that others may want to do but have to go out of their way to do. More on that as we move toward our participation again with the Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations.

But more of all of that in the new year. It will be for us a Year of Celebrations, when we take time to mark and thank and renew all the partnerships and people that have helped us get to where we are, whom made 2011 a little bit easier and a little bit more bearable for us, as we seek to make it so for our neighbors. A Year When We Go Deeper. Stay tuned.

And if you are still here with me at this point, let me ask you to help us enter 2012 on an amazing, surprising, gifted note. We need your End of the Year tax deductible contribution. You can make it easily and safely online at, or can mail a check to A Third Place Community Foundation at The Welcome Table Center, 5920 N. Owasso Ave., Turley. OK 74126. Everyone of the things I have written about above will still be projects, are still in need of support; including things I didn't mention like how we are a warming station now as we were a cooling station this summer, how we are still building up our free internet center for those here without, how we need more money for our food pantry purchases, for our gardenpark, for new signs to let the world know what we have going on, for the transformation of our remaining building into a community room, for new shelves for the clothing room, for bathroom renovations, for some part time staff to keep the center open and growing a few more hours a day, and for a new website presence. These are all the "uncool" things that make possible the transformational things mentioned above.

So, thank you for all you have done, even the important work of spreading the word about us; and as we tell one another here, we are all, regardless of our circumstances, blessed in special ways, with something we each can give. We love to be able to offer to one another here the opportunities to give of our selves in so many ways; we love to be able to extend that opportunity to you too as we end out this incredible year.